Posts Tagged ‘Chareidim’

SERMON: God’s Cossacks: Force-fed Judaism

Something historic took place on the festival of Purim, and we Jews didn’t even celebrate it! Yes, everyone knows that Purim was the day we were saved from annihilation by Haman. That we celebrated. But there is something else that took place that day that affects us to this very day. You know what happened on Purim day? The Jews accepted the Torah! That’s right! It happened on Purim! You thought it happened on Shavuot at Mt. Sinai. But no, it happened on Purim in Persia. Allow me to explain because the explanation may give some insight into what motivated the Jews to build the Golden Calf, and indeed it might help us understand how Jews should be treating each other today. READ MORE

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SERMON: It Wasn’t Always Like This; June, Jerusalem and Mona Lisa

June has arrived and you know what that means! In the American calendar every month is equal, but some have special connotations associated with them … January is the beginning of the New Year, April is tax day, September is back to school. And June? Well, June used to be associated with graduations but you can’t help but notice that many colleges and universities now have their graduations earlier, maybe even March or April. You spend $40,000 a year to get your child educated and he/she goes to school for 3 and a half months! But June has another connotation, and that one is still with us. June … the month for marriage! READ MORE

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SERMON: Haman and the Hareidim

I tell you now: if you stick around until the end of the sermon you’re going to hear me say something that you might find shocking, coming from me!

Tonight we usher in the joyous festival of Purim. Purim commemorates an incident in Jewish history which took place nearly 2500 years ago while the Jews were living in Persia. Haman convinces the king to annihilate the Jews, but through the wisdom of Mordecai and Esther, and with the grace of God, the Jews were saved … leading to rejoicing and celebrating, which we commemorate to this very day. In fact, rejoicing is such an integral part of Purim that our sages ordained that on this day we are to fulfill what, to me, is the nicest and certainly the most popular rabbinic decree: On Purim, say our sages, one is obligated to drink enough alcohol until – in the words of our sages – “Ad d’lo yodah ben arur Haman l’boruch Mordechai” – until one can no longer differentiate between the phrase, “Cursed is Haman” and the phrase, “Blessed is Mordechai.” What a marvelous commandment! It seems as if we are obligated to get drunk! Even those Jews who usually don’t follow the laws of our rabbis, must find some attraction to this decree! READ MORE

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SERMON: Who Do You Trust? Should You Trust Your Rabbi?

In the 1950’s there was a popular television program called “Who Do You Trust?” The emcee was a young man just starting out in television. I wonder whatever happened to him. His name was Johnny Carson! In regard to the question of “who do you trust,” today I would answer: not your rabbis! I’m not talking about me … I’m talking about other rabbis; rabbis like Rabbi Aharon Teitelbaum – more popularly known as the Satmar Rebbe – but really one of the two Satmar Rebbes. There are two leaders of this world-renowned Chasidic dynasty … brothers who do not talk to each other, who have sued each other in court, each having their own followers. It is estimated that there are 120,000 Satmar Chasidim in the world and for these 120,000 Jews, what the Rebbe says, goes! Some of Tony Soprano’s henchmen defied him, but no Satmar Chasid would defy his Rebbe! But if they ask me – which they haven’t – I would tell them: don’t trust everything your rabbi tells you! Last week the Satmar Rebbe took note of the fact that there is an increased rate of cancer amongst the women in his sect. He was obviously referring to breast cancer, but he would not use that word. What he did say is that the increasing cancer amongst Satmar women was due to their lack of modesty (Satmar women cover more of their body than most any other Jewish group in the world, but that’s beside the point). And so, as to increase the standards of modesty and lower the rate of cancer among Satmar women, he called for all use of makeup and cosmetics to stop. So, it’s the women that cause cancer. It’s the cosmetics that cause cancer. If any of the Satmar Chasidim asked me – and they haven’t and won’t – I would tell them not to trust every word their rabbi tells them. READ MORE

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SERMON: God and/or Man

February 3, 2014 Leave a comment

As I have pointed out before, Ariel Sharon when asked to explain why, as Minister of Housing Construction, he had promoted the building of thousands of homes in the Judea Samaria and Gaza Strip, and then as Prime Minister, had been behind the disengagement from Gaza and eventually the return of some land to the Palestinians … he would explain: “The view from here [the Prime Minister’s office] is different than the view from there.” During my two week visit to Israel I kept thinking of those words in my own personal context. How different the news is when you are in Israel from when you are in the U.S. While back here in the U.S. the news during those two weeks focused on Gov. Christie, the Geneva Talks, Obamacare … almost nothing was heard about those things in Israel. In Israel the two major topics of discussion were in regard to two individuals whose names I suspect most all of you don’t even know, but underscore two unique aspects of our people. READ MORE

SERMON: Women of the Wall

It is one of my favorite photographs … so much so that I have it framed and it is placed in my office, because it reminds me that I’m not crazy!

You know by now that as an Orthodox rabbi I frequently go against the prevailing mindset. I am an Orthodox rabbi who sees no problem in a woman becoming a rabbi. I am an Orthodox rabbi who sees the increased involvement of women in learning Torah, carrying the Torah, conducting a women’s tefillah, reading the Megillah and all other recent innovations that are halachically permitted, as being one of the most positive developments on the American Jewish scene. I am an Orthodox rabbi who sees no problem in a woman putting on a tallit and tefillin (I’m definitely not going to get into an altercation with Leba Diamond!). I am an Orthodox rabbi who is upset and totally opposed to the domination that the ultra-Orthodox community has established in Israel. READ MORE

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Two Lessons from a Donkey: Help Your Enemy and Get a Job!

February 21, 2012 Leave a comment

Today I’m being forced to do something that does not come naturally to me but, because of some Jews, as a rabbi I am forced to do it.  Today I rise to defend President Barack Obama.

As most of you know, I am not one of Mr. Obama’s supporters.  And I’m not the only American Jew who feels this way!  While Mr. Obama won close to 80% of the Jewish vote in 2008, most political commentators agree that he will still win a strong majority of the American Jewish vote this year, the percentage of Jews voting for him may not be as high.  Some disagree with his domestic policies; some disagree with his foreign policies.  And some of us disagree with both.  But some of us, in our disagreement, have gone too far.  And that is why I have to rise to defend him.

At the end of January, Rabbi Dov Lior, who is a Religious Zionist leader in Israel and currently the Chief Rabbi of Kiryat Arba in Chevron – one of the holiest spots on earth for the Jewish people – delivered a speech in which he compared President Obama to Haman – the enemy of the Jews in the Book of Esther.  And he went on to describe our President as a “kushi” – a derogatory term used in the same way the “N” word is used here in America. READ MORE